Why the Calgary Flames should extend Noah Hanifin

Photo credit:Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
5 months ago
When it comes to building a hockey club, there are a lot of different philosophies to balance. One in particular that’s become prominent league-wide in recent years is the notion that you build a team from the net and move out from there.
In this lens, in terms of discussing roster construction, let’s talk about why the Calgary Flames might want to hold onto pending unrestricted free agent Noah Hanifin.

Hanifin solidifies the Flames’ top two pairings

So what’s the plan for the Flames in net? Well, Dustin Wolf is the plan.
What’s the plan for the Flames up front? Centre is a bit of a work in progress, but on the wings they have Jakob Pelletier, Connor Zary, Samuel Honzek, Matt Coronato, and potentially guys like Rory Kerins, Adam Klapka and Emilio Pettersen could slot in.
What about on the back end? Well, they have Jeremie Poirier, who’s missed all but the first four AHL games of the season with a serious laceration that required surgery, and Etienne Morin, who has played zero pro game as of yet. And… uh… well, while they have some guys that could be reliable third-pairing defenders in their system, that’s about it.
The Flames have MacKenzie Weegar and Rasmus Andersson signed for awhile. If they bring back Hanifin, suddenly they have three fairly high-end players that can be mixed and matched with each other, and buy their prospects a bit of runway to develop into NHLers. They don’t need the runway for their goalies or wingers; they need it for their blueliners. And without Hanifin, their blueline gets really thin, really quickly. As Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli has said in multiple media appearances recently, the Flames can’t trade everybody.

Hanifin is still in his prime

On Thursday’s broadcast, Sportsnet’s Eric Francis hit the nail on the head: Hanifin is in his prime. The blueliner turns 27 before the end of January, and an eight-year deal would expire a few months after his 35th birthday.
I completely get the argument that the Flames need to get younger, and the way to do that would be to sell off players and draft younger ones. But if you’re the Flames, you probably drive yourselves mad trying to find another reliable all-situations blueliner like Hanifin with the assets you got for trading him.
In other words, you can keep your Hanifin, or you can gamble on draft picks… hoping that one turns into a Hanifin.

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If you value a defenceman like Hanifin, just keep Hanifin. You’ll have to pay to do it, but at least then you can spend your time and effort solving other problems. (Like finding more young centres for the organization.)

Hanifin will have value left on the other side of a retool

If you accept the premise that the Flames are trying to transform their hockey club a bit over the next few seasons, presumably with the aim of being a more competitive club when the new arena opens in 2027. When the 2027-28 season begins, Hanifin will be six months past his 30th birthday.
He’ll still have value, and presumably the interim period will have been spent surrounding him – and some other holdover veterans – with a younger, more skilled supporting cast than they’ve had in recent years. It’s not like Hanifin’s game will fall off a cliff before the Flames are supposed to be good again. He’s played almost 700 games, he’s basically what he’s going to be… but he’s going to potentially be this version of Hanifin for awhile.
Is it ideal to be spending north of $7 million for any defenders while your club is undergoing a transformation of sorts? Probably not. But considering the state of the Flames’ farm system and prospect base, which players they already have signed for the next few seasons, and sketching out a vague plan for how the next few seasons could proceed… you can sort of get why the Flames would want to hold onto Hanifin rather than punt him out the door for futures.

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